October 13, 2020
Jason Mudd is an expert in earned media and media relations. Learn Axia Public Relations’ earned media process and how your company can replicate the steps. Jason is the managing partner of Axia Public Relations.
Jason Mudd, On Top of PR host, helps companies get on Undercover Boss. He is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002.
The one with Jason Mudd teaching you Axia’s earned media process.
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Five things you’ll learn from this episode:
How can I improve and increase my earned media coverage?
How can I better understand how to work with the media?
What types of stories should I share with the media?
What are the most important steps of the earned media process?
Why should I think visually with every news topic I pitch?
“It’s always good to look at the elements of news and align your communication, media, pitch, or news release to as many of them as possible.” — @jasonmudd9
“You need to think of the media as an audience, a channel, and a tool to get your message out there.” — @jasonmudd9
“You need to be thinking visually when you’re writing and pitching your story.” — @jasonmudd9
“Contrary to popular belief, when you post something to a commercial newswire, while it might go to newsrooms, a lot of newsrooms aren’t standing by waiting for a story.” — @jasonmudd9
“Pitching media is very similar to doing sales because you have to have a great product, you have to have an audience that’s interested, and you’ve got to make it relevant to what they want to know or they want to do.” — @jasonmudd9
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Blog posts mentioned:
Presented by: ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
- Hello, and welcome to On Top of PR, I'm your host Jason Mudd. And today we're gonna share, we're gonna get behind the curtain a little bit and share with you Axia's earned media process. When I speak in audiences across the nation about earned media and media coverage, people love this visual that we're gonna show you. So if you are not connected to a videocast of this episode, that's okay, stay with us, listen, we have a visual on our website and on the show notes. So if you go to ontopofpr.com and you click on this episode, you will be able to view the image that goes along with this show today, but thank you for tuning in you are gonna learn a lot about working with the media, media relations and how to get the most earned media coverage for your topic or your organization based on us revealing and walking you through our earned media process that we use at Axia Public Relations. I'm glad you're here, you'll be glad you're here too thanks for watching.
- [Narrator] Welcome to On Top of PR, with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer.
- Welcome to another great episode of On Top of PR, I'm your host Jason Mudd. And today we're doing what's called a solocast and you can look for me to do a solocast where it's just you and me talking one-on-one, no guest and we do this about every fifth episode. So watch for these solocast, where I wanna give away some knowledge or some opinions or some of my experience leading PR teams for believe it or not the last 20 years. And I'm really excited today to talk to you about our earned media process, a process we've been developing for about 20 years now, and we're really proud of it to be candid. And when we show it to companies and clients, they really like it. So I thought we'd spend some time today kind of walking through Axia's earned media process in hopes that it helps you one, better understand how to work with the media and two how to improve and increase your earned media coverage. So whether you are doing PR on your own, at a company or you're working in a Department of PR pros, I think our time here today is going to be very valuable to you and I look forward to going through it with you. So, let me just show you real quick, what that graphic looks like and as you'll see here, we've got 18 steps to our earned media process. We originally created this process, you know, several years ago after some testing and tweaking as a visual way to show our clients kind of the process for earning media coverage. Also to help make sure that our agency is following a very consistent earned media process. And so I'm gonna walk you through these 18 steps during this broadcast. Now, if you're catching this as a podcast in your audio only, don't worry, we'll put in the show notes a link where you can go and find this visual and you can take a look at that later. If you're watching this while we're doing live, or we're doing video, you're gonna see it on your screen. So for both audiences, we definitely want to accommodate you fully here. So back to our 18 step process, the first set of steps is called inputs. And the first one is objectives. And this is really where you figure out what are you trying to accomplish through your communication. And that might be that you want to reach a certain audience, you want to persuade a certain audience, but you know, really what are we trying to do and how are we gonna measure to know if it was successful? The second step result is doing research. And so you wanna kind of research the market, research the media list, research the topic, research what makes it newsworthy, and also hopefully bring some data or some insights that your research provided you to help tell something, a story that is newsworthy. In addition, in the show notes, we're gonna put, what we call elements of news and what makes something newsworthy, that's one of our most popular blog posts. So we'll also include that in the show notes, just so you can review that in advance of going through this earned media process at your offices. Because it's always good to kind of look at the elements of news and align your communication or your media pitch or your news release or any news materials to as many of those 10 elements of news, as long as you're not just kind of stuffing as many newsworthy elements into your story as possible versus genuinely and authentically having good news and newsworthy content to share. So the next set of items in the step is our biggest set and that's called activity. So there's a lot of activities to this earned media process. And the first one step number three is concepts. This is where you start coming up with what are those concepts that would be newsworthy and interesting to the audience. And by the way, when you're thinking about audience, you need to think of the media as both an audience, a channel and a tool to get your message out there. So when you're doing media relations, it's obviously important to have relationships and to have the newsroom and the news contacts you're talking to be your audience, but they're also ultimately a channel to reach the true audience. Their audience is your audience, if you're doing it right. So, as you're coming up with the concepts, you wanna answer the question of who cares? And why do they wanna know this? Why is this newsworthy to anybody who's not inside our organization or not doing business with us? How is this newsworthy to the industry at large, to the marketplace overall, to consumers that are gonna be consuming this news? So you wanna make sure your news concepts, they're your pitch concepts, your new story, and the concepts around it are both newsworthy and obviously relevant to people who are outside of your four walls. So for example, no one cares that at your company, it's Friday, its Hawaiian Shirt Day and we're gonna be having a barbecue. The only people who care about that would be the employees inside your company, or those who might wanna work there because you've got cool Hawaiian Shirt Day and barbecues, but that sounds more like something for your employee newsletter or your blog, not for the larger external media and most importantly the audiences that they reach and inform and entertain. So similarly, step four is about taking those concepts and turning them into the messages that I identified earlier. Step five is actually drafting a media pitch or a news release or a media advisory, or maybe even an opt-ed or other type of submitted or ghostwritten article from those messages. Step six is gonna be copy editing. It's so important that you send content to newsrooms in the format that they typically run their stories in. A lot of news outlets are gonna follow something called AP or Associated Press style, AP style. And that's the pretty much the standard format, of language and communication and writing style that most newsrooms prefer and use. There are some exceptions, but if you can get the AP style, right, you're probably gonna be close enough to most of the idiosyncrasies of each newsroom. At our agency for example, we know copy editing is so important that we have three copy editors on our team and even one backup if we need her. So copy editing is very important to us, it's something we started doing, oh, about 15 years ago, maybe even a little longer, and we have found that this really differentiates us from a lot of other agencies and most agencies and even cut back newsrooms really lack anyone in a copy editing role. So what you wanna do is write your content in a way that literally the editor could copy your news release or your submission and paste it into their website or their CMS or their word processing platform or whatever their workflow is to get a new story from draft to being live. But, you know, if you hand deliver it to them, they're gonna like you a lot more and be more likely to use it. If it's difficult for them to get the story and it's an uphill battle, then they might walk away and say, "No, thanks it's too much work "for the relative newsworthiness of the announcement "or the content that you're providing to us." So having copy editors really help get past that process. Step seven is part of that process too, of being visual, that process of hand delivering good content, good newsworthy information to a newsroom or an editor or a reporter. What we're hearing from reporters and this is not new data. So I imagine that it's even more relevant today, but about a year or two ago, we discovered reporters were telling us that they have major challenges with getting visuals. They say they spend more time chasing a visual than they do actually writing a story. They spend more time chasing a good visual than they do chasing down sources. Now, all that said there's even another barrier for them, and that is a lot in newsrooms will not let them submit a story to an editor until they have a visual associated with it. So that's how important the visual is, and you really need to be thinking visually when you're telling your story, when you're pitching your story, when you're submitting your story, you know, television and video is all about visual. But so is radio, radio is theater of the mind, which would be a podcast or a audiocast or a traditional radio news show. And so you gotta think visual for TV and radio, but also for print or web a good visual draws in the viewer or the audience. And so a good visual is more likely to draw attention and eyeballs to your story than one that doesn't have visuals. Step eight is client approval. Obviously the client and the corporation or the organization needs to approve any messaging that goes out before it goes out. But after it's been drafted properly and followed AP style and copy editing, the approval process should be very easy. It just depends on how well organized the client is or your management team is, or whatever the case might be. But hopefully you've got some kind of in house style guide, like an AP style book for your company, how you word things, how you express things, the nuances and the elements of style that are important to your organization. And here we go, we're getting into what I think might be the most important steps of our earned media process. Step nine is about relationships. That is where hopefully you already know the newsroom that you're calling on, whether you're pitching, they already know you, you've got good connections within the organization, they look forward to hearing from you, you've built a reputation for having newsworthy content and not bothering them with things like Hawaiian Shirt Day and barbecue Friday, but instead they know they can count on you for credible and reliable and insightful news and information that you know the elements of news, that you've engaged them in the past, that you're not just seeking coverage for the sake of coverage, and you're not being selfish in that relationship. Now, if you don't have relationships, that's okay, you can get them. And it just takes time and it takes diligence and paying attention and putting them kind of first and reading what they're writing about or they're reporting on and engaging them through social media, connecting with them on LinkedIn, commenting on their tweets, commenting on their articles, sharing their articles online and on social media, asking them good questions, offering to be a resource to them when they need one, come to them with an offering first, before you come to them for an ask, I think that's really important. We'll also put in the show notes, a link to great ways to build media contacts through social media I think you'll really like that post that we did. And the step I want to talk about next is step 10, called pitching and pitching can traditionally, and typically takes place by phone. Certainly doing it by phone is not the only way to do it, but we have a phone icon there for step 10 of pitching. I've personally found that if you pick up the phone first and introduce your pitch and then ask for permission to email them more information, your pitch is gonna stand out, it's gonna stand out a lot more from all the other emails, unsolicited emails, and pitches that they get. Speaking of, I think it's important to remind you that I've seen reports that for every one new story, a reporter or newsroom does they receive at least 10, maybe even 100 other options or other pitches. And it's a very competitive landscape. So you've got to really sharpen your axe and sharpen your pin and bring your A game to the table for this conversation, it's so important. And so you might pitch them by phone or by email or through a direct message on social media, there's many many ways to initiate that pitch, but I just highly recommend picking up the phone first. Even if you leave a voicemail, when they finally check that voicemail, they might go back and check the email you sent them later, or they might go back from that email to listen to your voicemail later. It's kind of like a one-two punch that really helps get the word out there, I think that's really important and a nice way to do it. We've seen more success when we actually ask permission first to send a pitch or a news release or a submission, and to be candid, if they don't get back to you, I would say still send it, but give them a reasonable amount of time to respond to your original pitch, where you asked for permission. And then I would just kind of accept implied permission if they don't get back to you, but then if they do take the time to get back to you, then you really know you've got , you know, a better opportunity or you've warmed up the table, it's now a warm pitch instead of a cold pitch, so I just recommend that. Real quick let's take a quick break and we'll come right back on other side after this quick announcement.
- [Narrator] You're listening to On Top of PR with your host Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the Managing Partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show.
- Okay, so welcome back. So we just walked through the first 10 steps of the earned media process. Now I wanna jump right in to step 11, which is called distribute or distribution. This is where you've gone ahead and you've pitched your story, you've asked for permission to send it whether or not they've come back and said yes or no now you're gonna send it to them. And this is an important step obviously, this is mostly done through email, you know, when I was very early in my career, we were faxing our releases, maybe even mailing them or calling them. And then early in my career, the first years, you know, I had email, but the agency I worked at didn't yet have it, or there was one computer we could share that could do email. And then soon after it started becoming available to everybody in the organization, and now email was the primary way to distribute media content or news releases and pitches. So you wanna make sure you've got a really good media list as I mentioned earlier, that should be done during kind of the research stage, you can subscribe to software to get media lists, or you can do the DIY homework of just kind of surfing the web, and looking at the news outlet and then trying to see if they list and about page has a roster of the newsrooms and the contacts there, the beats they write and their email addresses. But if you're gonna do this at any volume, you really have to have a media database, which is gonna cost you thousands of dollars a year to subscribe to. I see a big mistake clients make is they buy media database thinking they're gonna use it, and then they realize there's no one there to use it. And it's just like, you know, Microsoft word, it doesn't work by itself, you've actually got to type in and do the work. So it might be a word processing software or immediate database, but unless there's an operator to use it on a regular basis, it's just not gonna work. Step 12 is post. And this is what were referring here to posting on a newswire like PR Newswire or Business Wire, or many of the other newswires that are out there. I highly recommend paid newswires, commercial newswires to post your press release or news release to when you have the budget for it. Now you won't always have the budget and maybe not all announcements are worthy of posting to a newswire. But to me, it's the cherry on top. So if you can't afford it, do everything else in this process, if you can't afford it, or you can justify it, put the cherry on top, but the cherry on top doesn't mean that the dessert isn't great or that the earned media process isn't great. So I tell clients all the time, look, I love putting things on PR Newswire or Business Wire, but if you can't do it, that's okay. And if your dollars are short, then I would spend more time on steps, 10, 11, and 13, and just get right on ahead, like, you know, pass, go, you know, I would just pass by posting on a wire, although the wires do have value and they do have a place especially if you just want to go more directly to consumers, because contrary to popular belief, when you post something to a commercial newswire well it might go to newsrooms, a lot of newsrooms aren't standing by waiting for a story because like I said, they're already getting pitched, at least 10 times the amount they're already doing. So they're not sitting around waiting for something to pop up on the wire, the commercial newswire at least unless you're Disney or Tesla or General Motors or Amazon or Microsoft or some kind of major, major consumer brand that there's a dedicated writer at multiple outlets who are tracking everything that company is doing as a beat writer for them. But for the most part people watching this video, you're not a household brand, at least not yet and there's not somebody sitting around waiting for you to breathe and to have a barbecue and to announce every little thing that they're gonna write about. Moving on to step 13 again, this is probably the most important step. So I've already said one of the most important steps is 10. 13 is also gonna be a big one, excuse me, nine and 10 are important so is 13, 13 is follow up. And in this process, we really haven't broken down what we think to be our best practice of how to best follow up, but it's a multistep process we have found hands down that the squeaky wheel gets the grease that follow up is so important. We've had journalists say no or more often just no response at all to our pitch, but we believed in our pitch, we believed that we're targeting the right contact, we believed that this is a story for their audience, and we've just kind of gently and professionally use balance ambition to follow up and stay on top of them and just keep nudging them and reminding them about the story. And oftentimes when you do it right, the reporter or editor will say, "Thank you, thank you for following up, "I was busy, thank you for staying on top of this, "I had some other things I had to do, "or I couldn't get to it yet, but I liked it "and I wanted to do it." Now, some might respond and say, "Hey, I'm just not interested or the timing's not right, "or this isn't the right story for me "or I just don't care about that topic," and you just have to learn how to roll with those things. But falling up is very important and I would push through and stay on top of it. But we celebrate followups and persistency at our agency because so many times we've seen where, you know, that third, fourth, fifth, or even six followup is when it really pays off. And I imagine just like in sale they say most people stop after the first or second followup and I imagine that's what happens with media pitching also. I make the common and it's not always popular, but pitching media is very similar to doing sales because you have to have a great product, you have to have a audience that's interested, or a buyer that's interested and you've got to make it relevant to them and what they wanna know and what they wanna do not about you, you wanna help them have the opportunity to fix their problem, you wanna help a journalist be able to tell a great story by again, prepackaging it and handing it off to them. Step 14 is interview. And sometimes interviews don't happen, especially if the new story is about a product or a solution, you really don't need to quote somebody. So we did work with an inventor who invented a product and people were fascinated by the product. They weren't really interested in the engineering behind it and the conceptualization and the story of how he invented it, they just wanted to talk about the product. So, you know, we agreed, we were surprised how few of interviews we actually ended up doing for so much media coverage that we were able to get. But I think it goes back to number seven, having a strong visual to go with that story, tying in elements of news that made the product itself and the solution itself extremely newsworthy. But there were occasional interviews and I always tell people, you go see a movie about the characters and the plot and the story and overcoming the odds and the perseverance and the personalities, you don't go see a movie because it's about a building or a product or an entity, you know, legal corporation or a corporation name or a corporate building or overhead, but the story is always about the people. So it's very important that you do find that story, and you tell that story within your pitch within reason, and doing so you know, very efficiently. And there are ways to do that. I won't be able to get into it in this solocast today, but I think it's important that you really think about how to be a great storyteller and how to tell stories, and I'll try to do that in a future solocast as well. So now we are at step 15 and step 15 is about monitoring, monitoring the media, looking for when the media is gonna cover your story, or when it already has covered your story. You're also gonna want to monitor the media to see what media queries they're putting out there, what kind of stories the media is looking to do. And you also just wanna see what the reporters and contacts you're pitching, what are they covering any way that's related or tangential to what you're doing so that you might be able to pivot your story and ride the coattails or what somebody will call newsjacking into that story in space. Step 16 is clipping and sharing the coverage. So obviously you're monitoring for the coverage once you get it, you wanna clip it and you wanna share it. And then we move on to the last set in our process is called outputs. So step 17 is measure and step 18 is called report. So step 17, you wanna measure your earned media coverage, or how much news coverage did you get? How much content was developed around the story? This can be measured by vanity numbers, like number of articles, number of mentions, how high up you were quoted in the article, what percentage of what we call media signal. So what percentage of the article was about your company or your expert in your story versus the other parts of the story, which quoted other sources or mentioned other brands or talked about other things, you know, was your company name part of the headline? Was your company name or your expert that was quoted as spokesperson in the first half of the article or in the lead of the article? Now journalism is changing very rapidly, I'm not always sure that it's progressing the way we would all like to see it, but good journalism, at least when I was in journalism school and early in my journalism career, always sourced at least three independent sources for every story that you wrote or that you put out there, and nowadays it's not as required to do that so much, but you should kind of think about, you'll probably have to share the stage or the story with three other individuals or three other organizations. Sometimes you can help kind of navigate that like I said earlier, you know, hand deliver the story. So you might tell a reporter or producer, "Hey, I'd like to, you know, help you with this story, "here are some of my comments, "I can also help bring in this person "or connect you with that person "who could fill out the story for you." They will love that, they will thank you so much for doing that. And then step 18 is obviously report. Produce some kind of report either for your boss, your client, the C-suite, your leadership team, or just creating an annual document where you're just tracking the media coverage. But you obviously wanna report on what's been done. Now, if you can make 17 and 18 more sophisticated, then we can do another broadcast about that. But if you wanna make your measurement more sophisticated, the best thing I would say is you gotta start with some research, you gotta align with the business goals and objectives, and then bolt on communications goals and objectives that align with those. And in that way you really can show real results and real impact 'cause you know, KPIs and vanity metrics like visibility and an eyeballs reached and number of articles, and what was your media signal in each of those articles, as well as, you know, some people even do Advertising Value Equivalency or AVE, which is, you know, really frowned upon, it is a measure that you can use, but it's not really material overall. So, you know, there're several different ways you can measure and report PR that's a whole 'nother big conversation that I would love to dive in with you in the future. So thanks for watching or listening, check out our earned media process that we've visually walked you through here and the show notes, resources and links that we've provided but from this session today, we've identified a few different topics that we can do in a future cast and I'm really excited to share those with you. I hope you enjoyed this earned media process, walk through as much as I enjoy giving it, as much as many of our clients and prospective clients and industry contacts really like seeing it. I presented this at a few conferences to PR professionals and they really like it. And my team really likes it also and like I said, we're not giving away all the trade secrets here, but we're really giving away a nice workflow or process or system that you can use with whatever you're doing at your company as well. So I hope it was helpful, please feel free to comment, share this episode with others, make a comment of other episodes you'd like to see us do, but I hope you'll use this and certainly reach out to us if we could ever be helpful in this effort and in this regard. Otherwise be well and thanks again for.
- [Narrator] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer.